Roadtrip awesomeness !

The time in Israel & Palestine is coming to an end. Tomorrow early early morning a taxi will pick us up and drive us to the airport. After a stop in Istanbul we will be back in Sweden Sunday afternoon….. I still have a hard time to comprehend that this time here is really already over! Right now I am blogging from a really awesome hostel in Tel Aviv were we will spent our last evening.  Let me give you a quick recap about the last week and our awesome roadtrip and then you will find some pictures from it below as well.

After leaving Jerusalem on the 21th in the afternoon we got our rental car which looked liked a wannabe version of a pitty cruiser and was probably as strong as a trabbi, but it carried us everywhere we wanted and so I shouldn’t really complain. For me a car has to drive and not much more. 😛 Our first stop was Nablus in the West Bank were we stayed at a really nice little Hotel and were amazed by the friendliness of all the people around us. We enjoyed a stroll through the city markets, had good food and of course smoked a shisha. We meant to go to Jericho before that but we decided to skip it after all, as there is not too much to see apart from that it is a really old city. We took it in general a little easy on visiting sites, ruins and other things like that since we both felt a little done with history and ruins after our Jordan trip and all the things we did and visited in Jerusalem and the West Bank. Our focus was a little more on relaxing, enjoying awesome views , meeting nice people on the way and simply doing what we felt like and not “what we have to see.”

After Nablus we drove up north to Nazareth were we had lunch and took a stroll around, it was nice and all but to us nothing super special, probably again due to that we just have seen so much in the last 5 months. After that we went along to Tiberias at the Sea of Galilee and immediately loved it. The weather was warm and nice, we visited hot sulphor pools and had really good food and felt really homey in our hotel which had a awesome roof terrace all to our selves. So in the end we decided to stay two nights instead of one. Didn’t regret it 🙂

Our trip went on to the Golan Heights which is occupied by Israel as well and belonged before to Syria. It was a beautiful landscape up there and we really enjoyed driving on the fairly empty streets. On our way to Mount Hermon right next to the Lebanese and Syrian boarder suddenly the road was blocked, we could hear machine guns and saw lots of soldier in the mountains. We got out of the car to see what this is all about, being fairly close to crisis ridden country boarders it was a very interesting feeling to experience. It turned out that it was the Israeli Army which did training in the mountains and we were told that they are done soon and the road will be open again. So we took our chance and took lots of pictures which surprisingly the army did not forbid. Normally the IDF is not very keen on pictures 😛

Arriving at Mount Hermon and getting up to the top with a lift we got an amazing view and funny enough, some snow and they were renting out slides up there ! So we took the chance and rented one and went down a little snowy hill with all the other kids 😉 Our journey went on to Akko in the late afternoon. A beautiful and cozy coast city I immediately liked a lot. We had walks on the city wall along the cost, of course again really good food and we even visited a citadel and went through a Templar tunnel which was really interesting ! We enjoyed a really really good dinner at the port in Akko. After having been eating Falaffel, white bread, hummus, tahina and all the other nice Arabic foods you can find around here, it was great to  have seafood and full wheat bread 😛 🙂

Next day we went to Haifa and had a look at the beautiful Bahai garden. The garden has 17 or 19 terraces and provided an amazing view down to the sea. We did not spend too much time around there as we started late that noon with driving and we wanted to get rid of the rental car in Tel Aviv before 06.00 pm.

Last stop before arriving in Tel Aviv in the evening was Caesarea where we had a look around some ruins and beaches and enjoyed lunch in the sun. Arriving in Tel Aviv we found our hostel fairly fast. It just opened half a year ago and is located in an old textile factory(Overstay Hostel). The whole style of it is very alternative, relaxed and cool ! Everything is full of graffiti and art, people are super nice, lots of different furniture types can be found and the roof top has an awesome lounge -chill -out area. You can rent a bike for one Euro a day. So we did that the next day and biked around Tel Aviv and the coast side. I like Tel Aviv a lot ! I thought it would be bigger, noisier and not so welcoming but that’s was totally wrong. The city has many awesome corners and cozy streets, nice bars and cafes and the beaches along the coast are awesome to hang out and enjoy a beer ! Today we took the bikes to old Jaffa which is right next to Tel Aviv and hang out along the water side and were over all pretty lazy. We might had have a few drinks in the hostel the night before, met some cool people and therefore we miiight be a little hangover today 😉

Over all the short roadtrip was relaxed and really great. No problems and lots of fun. Now I gonna slack around the hostel and hopefully catch some sleep before we have to drive to the airport. Thank you Israel and Palestine for amazing 5 months, I saw a lot, experienced a lot, learned a lot, met amazing people and the time here gave me over all a great opportunity to grow! I look forward to my next adventures and will keep you updated here ! Let’s hope I won’t freeze to death in Sweden, there it is about 30 degrees less than here right now…. 😛 Now enjoy some pictures I took in the last week :

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21 Things I will miss about living in Jerusalem

Less than two weeks left in Israel & Palestine!
Since my post about the ’27 reasons to miss Malmö’, I thought Jerusalem deserves something similar. So here you go:
21 things I will miss about living in Jerusalem:

1. All the friends I have met through my work and all the friends I have met outside work, Palestinians and Israelis. They are great people and I will miss them much.

2. All the stray kitties we have met on our evening walks, some of them we even have fed for a while. If I could, I would adopt them all.

3. The friendly old newspaper guy I met every morning at the corner of the Mamilla Mall. Even though he knew I can’t read Hebrew he gave me a paper every time explaining something to me in Hebrew. When I started to learn a few Hebrew words his smile in the morning got even brighter. I think he never gave up the hope that I will learn Hebrew some day.

4. Even though I often cursed that I live so far away from my work (depending on the different location we have lived at, my walk to work was always between 30 and 45 min) I overall enjoyed walking first through the center of the Western side and then arriving at the busy Arab side where in the morning people sell freshly baked sesame rings on the side of the streets. While listening to music on my mp3 player and walking I had lots of time to think and reflect on my life here. (In case you wonder, the bus connection and the traffic here is so inefficient that it wouldn’t have made a difference in time spent).

5. I will miss my work. A lot. I have learned so much and I got to know so many interesting people. My boss is one of the greatest persons I have ever met and all my colleagues have been wonderful. Even the grumpy Armenian 😉 Finally getting the chance to work practically in the field I have studied in since over 2 years has been a great experience.

6. Being able to get a freshly pressed pomegranate juice on almost every corner and feeling a nice vitamin boost after a night out.

7. Taking trips to the West Bank to the vibrant city of Ramallah or having a shisha on the main square in Bethlehem watching all the people passing by on their way to the birthplace of Jesus.

8. Going out to clubs and bars around Yaffa street with my friends, catching the happy hour at Hataklit and then going dancing in the crowded Video pub. The atmosphere around Yaffa street especially on Thursday nights is awesome.

9. Visiting the old city and wandering through the different quarters, especially the Arab quarter feels sometimes like being in the tale of 1000 and one nights.

10. Hanging out in the Austrian Hospice and enjoying the silence of the garden while listening to the Minarets singing and watching the people walking by on the street below.

11. History. I have to admit I was never too much into ancient history but since you can find history here around almost every corner, it was easy and interesting to learn something new almost every day.

12. The countless interesting conversations and discussions about the Israeli-Palestinian conflict, about the whole region in general and about the different cultures and traditions which can be found around here.

13. Dinner nights with friends, always full of good food, fun topics to talk about and overall simply a great time spend with lovely people.

14. Night adventures on Jerusalem’s playgrounds with friends.

15. Arabic food. I just love it.

16. Meeting new people from all over the world and receiving many invitations to visit the different countries they come from.

17. Going to the Mahane Yehuda market, buying fresh food, fresh halva and spices and simply enjoying the vibrancy of this place.

18. Seeing the people living here getting overly excited about the snowfall in December was more than fun. Nothing worked in the city anymore, the office was closed and so on. This made snowing a lot more interesting than in Sweden or Germany.

19. 
The friendly guy working in the little store next door to the office. He alway welcomed me and the other interns with a big smile and asked how we are today. He ecouraged me to speak Arabic and taught me how to pronounce many words correctly. I really like the language and hope I can improve it in the future.

20. The weather (apart from a 10 days period in December) has been great. September to November it was really warm and after the snow in December it is now pretty mild again. During the day the temperature reaches around 16-18 degrees. It has rained maybe 4 times in the whole period I have been in this country.

21. The singing from the different minarets around the city. You can’t hear it that much in the Western part but even there if you listen from our kitchen window very closely, you can hear the wind carrying it around the city. So it turns out I have a thing for Arabic music.

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Last Weeks in Jerusalem & the Conflict’s Presence in Daily Life

Three weeks to go and then we will be back in Sweden. I can’t believe how time was flying the last few months.  It still feels like we just IMG_3727arrived but that is 4 month ago…..

I have very mixed feelings about leaving this country. On the one hand I am of course looking forward to see my friends again, to be closer to Germany, have central heating and as much warm water as I want while taking a shower…. and I look forward to finish my bachelor and hopefully find a cool master program for the next autumn . On the other hand I will miss the people I have met here,  the nice weather ( apart from the snowstorm of course 😛 ) , the city of Jerusalem is very beautiful and interesting and I have loved my trips to the West Bank. Not working at CDCD anymore will feel weird, I have enjoyed the work here so much and I have learned a lot . Before I came here I hoped that I grow with coming here and that it will  help me to widen my horizon how I think about certain issues and it did. It did a lot. The thought of leaving this organization and the work with the conflict here feels almost wrong. I can just leave and go on living my life in comfortable Sweden but the people here , especially the Palestinians , have to keep on dealing with the circumstances and can’t just leave even if they wanted to.

IMG_4758I will keep on working with CDCD, however, this will be of course not the same as being in the office with my lovely colleagues and in direct contact with the people we work with.  Israel is not a country I would want to live in permanently , to that conclusion I came, however if I would have no plans for the next year I would probably try to stay and keep on working since I seem to be one of the few people who have not given up hope that things can actually change and of course because I have enjoyed the work here to such a great extent.

The conflict and security issue in this country is always present in the daily life and it has affected me as well. Therefore I can only imagine how hard it is for the people who live permanently here . I have no doubt about that it is the hardest for Palestinians but I am also talking about both sides in this case. I have met some very lovely Israeli friends who have very understandable and sometimes really good points of view when we have another discussion about the situation here after a lovely dinner…  For the Israelis who want peace and are willing to make compromises ( and that is the majority I at least have met) the situation is not always easy as well.

Let me tell you three examples how the conflict and the security issue here as affected me in my daily life.

1. One of my best friends was kicked out of the country and another one got interrogated for over 9 hours when he wanted to enter the country again….. and these are not the only stories I have heard. Other people had no problem at all. Everything what is done here about visa and migration seems arbitrary and random and that is exactly the problem . You never know if you will be interviewed for 10 min and all is well or for 9 hours and still get kicked out . With reason or without, doesn’t matter.  If I would have to pick one word which describes many things which I have experienced while my stay in Jerusalem then I would pick the word ‘random’. From traffic planning over shopping in a supermarket to visa issues and entering the 485px-Emblem_of_Israel.svgcountry. Everything what happens to you is random.

So today we had an appointment at the Ministry of Interior to extend our visa. I was kind of anxious about it as many of my friends had problems with the authority here as I wrote above. It was my turn first and I went to that Israeli lady who did not even look up when I sat down and said Hi.  Then she looked at me and almost screamed at me; why are you here, explain yourself ! Why do you need a visa ?!?!  So I stayed calm and polite and told her that I do an internship as a part of my Studies in Sweden and to be able to finish it and afterwards tour the country a bit I need an extension of my visa. What’s the name of the organization where is it ???? I told her the address and the name…. I don’t know where that is she angrily said….She went through my papers I had brought with me ( passport, letter of explanation, internship contract, bankstatement, flight tickets etc…) You are here on a tourist visa you CAN NOT extent a tourist visa, NO, no way!!!  So I said well, I talked to the Israeli embassy in Stockholm and Copenhagen and they said I can. Since it is an unpaid internship and only lasts for 5 months. She mumbles something and went again through my papers….. Where is the date on the flight ticket there is no date, she screamed….. I smiled and point it out to her. Same with the bank statement, wheeeerreeeeee does it say you have enough money to support yourself ?????????  I again point it out to her. Then I said, you know, we only need 4 more days on our visa, then we leave anyway we just want to see a bit more of this beautiful country after my internship finishes and then we leave on the 26th. I smiled again.

Suddenly she got somewhat friendly and said okey, if you sign me here that you promise that you leave the country on the 26th and that you do not intend to try to extend your visa again its okey. BUT we have an eye on you if you don’t leave the country we will know and you have a big problem ! Thats fine, I said . Then she even said, you know what, for only 4 days you do not need an extension. I will put it in the computer that its fine that you stay 4 days more and you show this paper at the airport. You do not need to pay the new visa. Go get your boyfriend so you can talk to him about it. So I did and she said everything what she said to me counts for my boyfriend as well. Yeeaaayyy all solved and we left 🙂 So I was right when thinking to go with the truth is probably the best idea.  Still, her behaviour was just random.

2. A very odd incident I experienced was last month at a flower shop. I was going to buy a sunflower and went in this cute , little shop and the lady in there was really friendly. After I payed she said can I ask you a question ? Sure I said, why not. Do you know what it means to imageswear this scarf you are wearing ?! She said. (At that time I was wearing the scarf around my neck I got from my friend in Jordan which is a traditional Middle Eastern headdress usually worn by Palestinians or Bedouins but also in general by Arabic people, called Keffiyeh).
I said, well I think I know what it means but why don’t you tell me what it means for you ? Where did you get it from? From the old city???, she asked visibly more suspicious. I got it from a friend in Jordan I said.  Then she said, well it shows that you support Arabs, do you like Arab people , do you really like Arab people ?!?!?!?!?!? My first impulse was that I wanted to start laughing or asking her if she is a racist, well I didn’t, I said yes I do like Arab people and I have no problem with wearing a scarf which is usually worn by Arab people. I think there is nothing wrong with liking Arabs. Even more upset she said, you know it sends a message, it provokes people , you might get bad reactions for it !!! I think I am fine with that and will be just fine to deal with it, I said, smiled, and wished her a good day and went out. I was thinking about starting a discussion with her but I was just too tired to deal with this topic again that day and hoped that my polite but straight forward reaction gave a something to think about.

3. I visited the Palestinian Refugee Camp Al Jalazone close to Ramallah the other month together with friends from work and Rickard. We had a really nice meeting with the director of a center where children can go after school and do different activities in their free time, like making music, learning a new language and many more things. We talked about how we can create a webpage for the center to inform IMG_9694about their work. When we entered the camp we were greeted by many very sweet kids dancing and running around us and asking us to take pictures of them 🙂 We had a really good time there.

Some weeks later I was reading the news in the morning and I read an article about a 13 year old kid shot in the Jalazon camp  by the Israeli Army in front of his school in the back. He died. It really really affected me and made me feel so sad and angry. I was in that camp and met so nice people there and so many sweet kids and one of them gets just shot dead.  According to the Palestinian news there was no incident of demonstration , stone throwing or similar and many people in the camp witnessed it. According to the Israeli news this kid was not 13 but 15 or 17 and was shot accidentally because he was trying to climb a security fence but he was not meant to be killed. To me it does not matter if 13 or 17 climbing a fence or not who shoots at kids with live ammunition?!  The Israeli people I talked to about the incident believe the Israeli news and the Palestinian people I have talked to about it believe their news.

Exactly this  problem I have noticed so many times when reading the Israeli and Palestinian news reporting about the same issues. Therefore we got an idea for a  project which I do not want to talk about in details as its not developed fully yet but the basic idea is creating a web page which when an incident happens related to the conflict, displays the news from both sides, Israeli and Palestinian. If there are some facts which are contradicting each other or the reports are in some way significantly different we simply highlight it and give the newspapers a chance to write a statement. If this page would reach some kind of popularity and would be read by Israelis , Palestinians and other world citizen it may create awareness that nothing should be just looked upon from only one side and in best case it even encourages better reporting. Let’s see if we can pull it of…. I will keep you updated about it 🙂

When I leave the country I will take all these experience with me and hopefully still keep on working with everything I started to be involved with. I also plan to write my Bachelor thesis about the conflict and already have some ideas but I have to figure them out more in detail.
I will keep on updating this blog about my travels, my work and my life experiences and hope you won’t stop following it when I am back in Sweden as I am sure I still have interesting things to share 😉

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Mahmoud Darwish

The last time I wrote about poetry was in June…Since then I mostly wrote about                                                                                   MahmoudDarwish    travelling but poetry is still a big part of my interest.
Today a friend I met in Ramallah posted a wonderful song about the poet Mahmoud Darwish which got me inspired to read about this person and his work. Here is the link to the wonderful song : https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=vn-vRMgRdDc

Mahmoud Darwish (13 March 1941 – 9 August 2008) was a Palestinian poet and author who won numerous awards for his literary output and was regarded as the Palestinian national poet. In his work, Palestine became a metaphor for the loss of Eden, birth and resurrection, and the anguish of dispossession and exile.He has been described as incarnating and reflecting “the tradition of the political poet in Islam, the man of action whose action is poetry. ( The Guardian, June 2002.)

I went through a few of his most famous pieces and found two poems I liked a lot and which I would like to share with you:

Don’t apologize for what you’ve done

Don’t apologize for what you’ve done – I’m saying this
in secret. I say to my personal other:
Here all of your memories are visible:
Midday ennui in a cat’s somnolence,
the cock’s comb,
a scent of sage,
mother’s coffee,
a straw mat with pillows,
the iron door to your room,
a fly buzzing around Socrates,
the cloud above Plato,
Diwan al-Hamasa,
father’s photograph,
Mu’jam al-Buldan,
Shakespeare,
your three brothers and three sisters,
your childhood friends –
and a klatch of meddlers:
‘Is that him?’
The witnesses disagree:
‘Maybe.’
‘It seems to be.’
I ask:
‘And who is he?’
I get no answer.
I whisper to my other:
‘Is he the one that was you… that was me?’
He looks away.
The witnesses turn to my mother to confirm
he is me and
she readies herself to sing
her unique song:
‘I’m the one who bore him,
but the wind brought him up.’
And I say to my other: ‘Don’t apologize, except to your mother.’

Mahmoud Darwish
A traveller

This road takes me; a horse guiding a horseman
A traveler like me cannot look back
I have walked far enough to know
where autumn begins:
there, behind the river,
the last pomegranates ripen
in an additional summer
and a beauty mark grows
in the seed of the apple
The road and I will sleep like partners
behind the river, beneath our shadows,
then rise at dawn and carry each other.
I will ask it: Why so fast?
Slow down, O horse saddled with seasons!
No matter how few our dreams
we will cross the desert and valleys
to reach the end at the beginning.
The beginning is behind us;
Before us, clouds bringing winter’s tidings.
I have walked far enough to know
where winter starts:
there, over the hill
a gazelle looks for a fawn under the clouds.
A hunter points his rifle;
I will howl like a wolf
so the white gazelle can flee the fire
and the hunter is scared.
The road and I will sleep
there, next to a cave, over the hill,
then rise at dawn and carry each other
asking: What next? Where are you taking me?
I see the fog, but I don’t see the road,
nor does it see me.
Have I arrived?
Or have I been separated from the road?
I asked myself, then said:
Now, from this distance,
a traveler like me
can look back!

Mahmoud Darwish